Army Reservists in South West Scotland during OBUA training (Picture: MOD).
Anonymous image of 7 SCOTS Army reservists during training (Picture: MOD).
Military Life

Local services for military community criticised in new report

Army Reservists in South West Scotland during OBUA training (Picture: MOD).
Anonymous image of 7 SCOTS Army reservists during training (Picture: MOD).

A new report has criticised the local services for members of the Armed Forces community in the UK, as part of the Armed Forces Covenant.

It examines how local authorities can reduce the disadvantages experienced by members of the military community.

The report is called A Decade of the Covenant: A review of delivery and impact of 10 years of the Armed Forces Covenant.

The report, by Shared Intelligence, was commissioned by Forces in Mind Trust, a body that works to enable ex-service personnel and their families to make a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life.

The covenant is a pledge from the Government to "treat members of the British Armed Forces and their families with fairness and respect".

Enshrined in law by the Armed Forces Act, the covenant focuses on helping members of the Armed Forces community have the same access to Government and commercial services and products as any other citizen and are not disadvantaged by their military service.

The new report found that while the covenant has helped members of the Armed Forces community, there are still areas where disadvantages remain.

For serving personnel, this includes impact on children's education, access to healthcare, and spousal employment.

For those leaving the military, a lack of awareness by frontline staff of the potential challenges they face when accessing housing and employment after service remains, the report said.

Veterans are reportedly facing disadvantages when accessing housing and healthcare.

A new statutory Covenant Duty came into force on 22 November and recommends that councils work with each other to improve awareness-raising and training for frontline staff.

Watch: All about the Armed Forces Act.

Local councils are now legally obliged to consider the military community when making decisions.

The new report calls for help for members of the Armed Forces community in understanding how the covenant can address any disadvantages they face in public services.

The work being done by the Armed Forces Covenant already, the report urges, must be built upon, and not undermined by the new duty.

It also stresses the need to increase awareness of the covenant and how it is being delivered to the people who need it.

The document says the impact of the Defence Transition Services is to be evaluated so that people likely to experience problems are helped as soon as possible.

The MOD says it will review any potential new burdens or costs for councils, although there is no new Government funding attached to the act.

The report's authors say it should act as a critical friend, holding councils and other service providers accountable locally for the delivery of the covenant.

Picture: MOD Crown Copyright.
Anonymous Royal Navy sailor (Picture: MOD).

Helen Helliwell, Director of Armed Forces People Policy at the Ministry of Defence, said: "I welcome this latest report, which adds deeply to our knowledge of how the covenant is being delivered across the whole of the UK.

"Since the first of these reports was published, many councils have embraced the recommended methods of having both a dedicated councillor champion and lead officer, to work together to deliver the spirit and letter of the covenant.

"I hope now that this approach is more widely adopted in councils across the UK and look forward to continuing to work together to improve the lives of our Armed Forces community."